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Professional Athletes Undergoing Cervical Spine Surgery

Over the years, having taken care of numerous pro and college athletes, I have had the opportunity to treat and evaluate them for spinal issues. Unfortunately, one of the best NFL quarterbacks in Peyton Manning, has what the Indianapolis Colts describe as a “complicated neurologic recovery”, after undergoing cervical spine surgery.

I have not personally examined Peyton nor have I reviewed the records of his medical file but per reports, he underwent a posterior cervical spine operation to remove pressure on one of his nerves.

As a fellowship trained spinal surgeon who only performs surgery on the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine, there are a number of different approaches to the cervical spine to remove the pressure off a pinched nerve.

Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

A procedure called an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion for a single level disc herniation is performed from the front of the neck through an incision about one to one and a half inches long, the disc material pressing on the nerve is removed, a spacer is then placed in between the vertebrae to stabilize the spine and increase the height for the nerves of the spine to exit, and then a small plate is subsequently placed on top to secure the fusion.

This is a minimally invasive procedure with patients going home either the day of surgery or the next morning and carries a very high success rate.

Most can resume normal activities within a period of days to weeks, however, for professional athletes; this time frame may be delayed.

Cervical Posterior Foraminotomy

Another approach is performing a procedure called a foraminotomy. This is done through the back of the neck and part of the lamina and medial facet joint is removed, the nerve is localized and the offending agent, the herniation, is removed, thereby relieving the pressure off the nerve.

Both of these approaches are widely accepted in the field of spine surgery and both are effective. Only after a thorough clinical exam and neuro-imaging review can your spine surgeon decide which procedure is best for each patient.

Unfortunately, Peyton will be missing his first game of the season. We certainly wish him the best and a speedy recovery back to his premier status as one of the best NFL quarterbacks and future “Hall of Famers.”